GRR

MotoGP's 2027 rule changes puts safety ahead of speed

03rd June 2024
Michael Scott

Smaller, simpler, and supposedly slower… the new-generation MotoGP rules are now official. From 2027, the current generation of fire-breathing up-and-down 1000cc aerodynes will be tamed. Without, we are assured, any adverse effects.

motogp-column-03.jpg

The changes in detail were broadly welcomed. Not least because of the safety implications. Ever-increasing speeds, especially corner speeds, question the size of run-off areas and gravel traps. Nobody wants the barriers to be moved even further back, even in places where there is enough space for it. And nobody wants more chicanes.

Just how much speeds will actually drop is questionable. In 2007 the first-generation 990cc MotoGP bikes were cut back to 800c, for the same reason, but speeds were little changed. What did happen was a negative for the actual racing. Lower torque and higher revs significantly cut the ability of riders to steer by spinning the rear wheel, removing a major aspect of technique, and applying uniformity of corner lines.

Limiting the riders’ repertoire meant overtaking became much harder, the racing more processional. But not really any slower.

The new generation engines drop to 850cc, down by 15 percent, but a proportionately smaller reduction to maximum bore size (7.4 percent, from 81mm to 75) dictates less oversquare cylinders. This should go some way to preserving similar torque characteristics. As for overall power – like the current 1000s, they are expected to have such a surplus as to need serious electronic taming in the lower four gears. Acceleration, at least, will be preserved. And top speed – current record 227.4 mph, and under threat at this year’s Italian GP – perhaps not by very much.

motogp-column-04.jpg

The other changes should have the desired effect, extending braking distance and reducing corner speed. Firstly, by cutting aerodynamics by reducing front wing sizes (from 600mm to 550, moved back by 50mm), along with some restrictions to mid-season changes. Secondly, by banning the ride-height adjustments whereby bikes can squat to reduce wheelies, but stretch to improve cornering clearance.

Motorcycle GP has an erratic history of rule changes, going back to the banning of supercharging at the birth of the championship in 1949, which did for the evocatively-named Velocette Roarer and require major redesign for other 500s. The next big restriction was the safety-inspired banning of full-coverage dustbin fairings in 1958, viewed by many as a retrograde step.

The next significant intervention, in 1967, was for very different reasons: to call a halt to the runaway technical war between the burgeoning Japanese factories, with an accelerating proliferation of cylinders and gears sending costs into orbit. For 500s and 350s, four cylinders was the maximum, two for the smaller classes, and a maximum of six gear ratios.

motogp-column-01.jpg

Major rules remained the same through the two-stroke take-over, even while that type of engine (sadly) fell out of favour in the marketplace. Realignment with the real world saw four-strokes introduced in 2002, and the original 990s (a size chosen to prevent 1000cc street-bike engines from undercutting “prototype” status) opened up a new technical adventure. Aprilia entered a raucous three-cylinder, Yamaha and Kawasaki L4s, and Suzuki a V4. Honda trumped them all with their magnificent V5.

Worries about rising speeds triggered the switch to 800cc after five years; cost concerns dictated compulsory four cylinders, but five unhappy years (the normal cycle of regulations) preceded happy relief with a return to a full 1000cc, with limited maximum bore size. This third MotoGP iteration arrived in 2012, and was successful enough to last for the next three five-year cycles.

Until now.

MotoGP’s management structure means that the manufacturers are part of the process of new rules, and their GPMA (manufacturers’ association) requires unanimous agreement, so we can’t blame only Dorna for these changes. Or congratulate them…

motogp-column-02.jpg

Some aspects are positive without doubt. Perhaps the most is banning of genuflecting suspension – ride-height adjustments that evolved from rear-wheel only to both ends, and from start-line-only to corner exit as well, circumventing a long-standing ban on active suspension by being rider-operated.

Several costly and usually scary malfunctions aside, the main criticism is that it has no application to street riding. This might not be strictly true - short-legged riders may enjoy height reduction, but that is when stopping at a red light rather than for full-bore corner exit acceleration.

Likewise, MotoGP aero, which has advanced from simple down-force wings to fairings offering ground-effect at high lean angles, has little real-world application, but that genie is now out of the bottle. Reducing the effect should alleviate stress on front tyres, currently causing such problems controlling temperature and pressure.

And smaller engines? KTM chief Pit Beirer said: “It was not our wish, but after discussion with our colleagues, we are also in favour now, just to make the bikes safer.”

And slower? That remains to be seen.   

 

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

  • Race

  • Modern

  • MotoGP

  • motogp-itv-2021-20-france-johann-zarco-gold-and-goose-mi-main-goodwood-14052021.jpg

    Modern

    ITV to show MotoGP

  • maverick-vinales-suspended-yamaha-motogp-2021-qatar-testing-gold-and-goose-mi-main-goodwood-12082021.jpg

    Modern

    Yamaha suspends Maverick Viñales from MotoGP Austrian GP

  • motogp-2023-pure-motorsport-main.jpg

    Modern

    Why MotoGP is still the purest form of racing